By The Associated PressAPPLICATIONS FALL: The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the second fewest in more than five years. GOOD SIGN: Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The drop suggests that layoffs have declined and that job growth may pick up from last month's weak pace. HIRING STILL SLUGGISH: Layoffs are only half the equation: Businesses also need to be confident enough in the economy to step up hiring. Many companies have been advertising more jobs but have been slow to fill them. Any increase in net jobs this month may be due more to dwindling layoffs than increased hiring.